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Indigenous Agriculture, Biogeochemistry, and Sustainability in the Pre-Contact Pacific
The Hawaiian Islands have been a useful model system for understanding aspects of biogeochemistry – and they and other Pacific Islands also represent valuable models for understanding human-land interactions, the development of intensive agriculture, and the potential for a transition to sustainability on isolated island worlds. Polynesians developed multiple forms of intensive agriculture on their diverse islands and landscapes; in Hawaii, they supported populations that likely were greater than modern populations (except on the urbanized island of Oahu) in socially and culturally complex societies with a range of intensive irrigated, rain-fed, and aquaculture systems. Intensive agriculture required rich (or enriched) soils; the distribution of those soils (and opportunities for enrichment) and the dynamics of human responses to agricultural opportunities and constraints offer insight into multiple ways human societies have recognize and facing the necessity of a transition to sustainability.